The McKenzie Method is a popular form of therapy used by many physical therapists, chiropractors and other health care professionals. It actively involves the patient with a series of specific exercises designed to relieve back and neck pain. Many of the exercises can be performed at home following formal instruction, which allows patients on going care to prevent further flare ups.
The McKenzie Method was developed by a physical therapist from New Zealand named Robin McKenzie, in the 1960’s. McKenzie believed that he could reduce pain levels in his patients by extending the spine with a prescribed method. He found his program helped his patients significantly, so much that they were able to return to their normal daily activities.
He formalized this program, and it is now used by those in the medical field everywhere.
Following a thorough assessment in which it is determined whether or not the patient is truly a candidate for McKenzie method, initial treatments can begin.
It is used mainly for those with chronic neck and back pain, which may be of a degenerative nature or stress-related. It is typically not indicated for those who have had severe spinal injuries or back surgery. For this reason, it is important to undergo a formal spinal consultation before trying this form of treatment.
What to Expect
During an assessment, the practitioner will typically ask questions such as:
- Is your pain better or worse when sitting?
- Is your pain better or worse when bending over?
- Is your pain better or worse when walking?
- Is your pain better or worse when lying down?
- Do you have any sleep disturbances?
- Have you had any major surgery?
- Have you had any recent accidents?
All of these questions are normal and will help the therapist determine if you can benefit from this treatment method.
Following the assessment is a thorough physical examination. This includes checking your reflexes and motor skills, documenting your pain level from various movements, and observing your posture and body position both sitting and standing.
These tests will help the therapist come up with a treatment plan specific to your condition.
There are a number of exercises used in a McKenzie session. Your therapist will customize a program that works for you. Many exercises will be familiar to you, and some are even reminiscent of yoga and other styles of exercise.
Standing forward bend – Stand with your feet together. Reach up over head, and then drop the hands down, reaching for the feet. Allow your head to hang and just relax.
Seated forward bend – Sit upright on the floor with your legs outstretched. Walk your hands forward toward your feet. Drop the head slightly and just relax. Hold for up to one minute.
Lying spine extension – Lie flat on your stomach. Place your hands under your shoulders. Push into the floor and lift the upper body up, looking slightly forward. Hold for up to one minute.
Single leg stretch – Lie flat on your back. Raise the right leg up and reach for the leg with your hands. Gently pull it into the body. Keep the legs straight and the back flat on the floor. Repeat the exercise on the left leg.
Spinal flexion – Lie on the floor on your back. Bend both knees and hug them into the chest, using your arms. Keep your head on the floor, and your neck relaxed. Hold for up to one minute.
Seated neck stretch – Sit upright in a chair.Keep your hands at your sides and your feet flat on the floor. Drop your chin to your chest and lengthen the back of the neck. Hold for up to one minute.
Unlike many conventional medical treatments which rely solely on the therapist or practitioner, the ultimate goal of the McKenzie Method is to educate the patient and allow them to continue self-treatments. The method can be used to both treat and prevent chronic neck and back pain.
While many think of the McKenzie method as just another form of exercises, it is really a total system of assessment and treatment used by therapists who have undergone specific training. If interested in trying the McKenzie method for your neck or back pain, seek out a licensed health care practitioner who is trained and certified in McKenzie Method.
1. The McKenzie Method –